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Wandering around Yangon

I had a little bit of free time around Yangon before my night bus to Bagan & on my last day before my flight. So I decided to do a walking tour around the city (Sule pagoda area). Yangon has an old world feel to it- the architecture, the environment. After spending 2.5 wks in Myanmar, I remember feeling a bit disoriented & overwhelmed by all the lights & activity in Thailand. They're neighboring countries but they feel worlds apart.
Highlights: Colonial architecture
Cast of Characters: Just myself on my first day. Evelyn & I were on the same flight out so we were traveling together on our last day.
Logistics/ Links: Yangon wiki
When: I went mid-February, 2012. It was hot.
Location: Yangon, Myanmar. To get into Myanmar, you have to fly in. Overland borders are tricky. I flew in via Bangkok. Bangkok is so comfortable & convenient.
Cost: Hotel room rates vary. There's not too many hotels so they can dictate their rates. I recommend reserving your room in advance. The cheapest room I got was $10 (shared bathroom. The room reminded me of torture cells in horror movies). Food choices are plentiful along the streets. There's a lot of South Asian folks, so you'll find lots of good Indian food for like $2. When taking taxis, ask your hotel what the going rates are to tourist attractions & then negotiate the price.
Trip Report: I like Yangon. I walked around the place & got hounded by street money changers. I was trying to be discreet with my camera but I was not wearing a longyi so I stood out as a tourist. You won't get harassed as a solo female walking around. I did get lots of curious looks (again because I was not wearing a longyi). I look Burmese but I'm wearing pants. I love how I look like a local everywhere in the world.

As I was getting ready to leave for Bagan, I ran into this Korean guy who was also at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok. We applied for a visa at the same time. We started chatting. I learned he stayed in the Philippines for a few months to learn English! It was so crazy because as he was helping me negotiate for a taxi, he sang this Filipino song (in fluent tagalog) called "Pinoy ako" (I'm Filipino). Lol! I have never even heard of the song! He was like- wtf?! How could you not have heard of it?! Lol! Anyway, he had this completely convincing shocked expression whenever the taxi driver would quote him the rate for the bus terminal. He would be like- "Huuwhhaaaat?!?! That's soo expensive!!!" It just cracks me up. I was thinking if I was the driver I would immediately feel the urge to lower the price! But they held their ground & I ended up taking a cab for the going rate. Oh well. It was a funny experience.

A fellow traveler I met in Myanmar told me a story about how a family friend (a very wealthy Burmese local) took her around for a city tour. He brought her to this building housing hundreds of ancient Buddha sculptures. There was even a a statue just like the emerald(it's really jade) Buddha in Bangkok! Very cool! They were all just sitting in a guarded storage facility collecting pigeon poop. She was told the place is off limits & she's probably the first foreigner to see it. Argh! I wish I met my friend sooner so I could have gone with her! Oh well.

Another interesting story in Yangon- I finally found a bank that can change dollars to kyat (I was a little bit worried changing my money in the streets). They close during lunch hour & when they re-open the rates may be slightly different so I had to wait for 1pm. As I was waiting, 2 bank employees started stacking piles & piles of cash right there on the lobby. They were moving money into trucks & they just did it right there in front of everybody. I did not see armed security personnel anywhere and here they were with a couple of about 3'x3' stacks of cash out in the open!!! I think my eyeballs were about to pop out, but I tried to be as discreet as possible. Have they not thought about the possibility of someone just grabbing the money & running for it? Hmm. Interesting sight. 

I wish I got a better photo. It's so beautiful how light hits this country. If you're a photography fan, you'll see what I mean when you go visit the country. That's Sule pagoda beyond.

Aging facades of the buildings around Yangon.

I was having breakfast at the rooftop of White House hotel when at the corner of my eye I saw some monks line up for morning alms. This is my first day in Myanmar & I could already tell the place is gonna be cool.

Bamboo scaffolding. I grew up exposed to massive megalopolis cities like Manila. That was my image of what a country's capital city should look like. Yangon, while not being their capital, is the major gateway into the country. The city feels smaller & less developed but makes up for that in character.

Street food stalls abound. This is actually by Sule Paya. This is their bus terminal area.

Some colonial buildings around downtown Yangon.

Residential architecture around the place.

Fancy temple on our way to Shwedagon pagoda.

You'll see a lot of sugarcane drink vendors

They desperately need architects in Myanmar.

I waited about 15 mins just to get to the log-in page of Gmail in Bagan. Internet is excruciatingly slow. In Yangon & Mandalay there are some spots that have faster internet. I guess these guys are doing ok.

Evelyn at a little noodle stall in Yangon

The Strand hotel in Yangon looks totally out of place

I felt like I stepped into a different country when I walked into the Strand hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. The contrast as soon as you step out of the hotel throws me off a bit.

There's a little stall selling pigeon feed. Pedestrians buy some & throw it out to the pigeons.

This guy was selling little snakes at the side of the road

Interesting sign at Yangon airport. You are an invalid!!!! How dare you even allow yourself to be born?!!!

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